Screaming Lord Sutch

Lord Sutch & the Savages

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Screaming Lord Sutch was an original, at least as far as British rock & roll was concerned -- with the obvious exception of Screamin' Jay Hawkins, to whom he owed an obvious debt -- there was no one in rock & roll on either side of the Atlantic who took anything like the approach he did to the music, mixing completely out-there playing and singing with mostly strange, dark novelty tunes. This collection, 13 tracks of which were produced by Joe Meek, show off the highlights of Sutch's five years on the EMI label, and feature accompaniment by Ritchie Blackmore, Nick Simper, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Matthew Fisher, and Nicky Hopkins, all future luminaries in the rock world. And between all of those talents, this collection would naturally pull in listeners on the American side of the Atlantic by sheer force of gravitation, as it were. As it turns out, however, the music is entertaining in its own right, and at its best offers a refreshing dose of straight-ahead rock & roll: "'Till the Following Night" and "Jack the Ripper" hold up well enough among the novelty tunes, while others, such as "Monster in Black Tights" (think of a Goth adaptation of "Venus in Blue Jeans") are good for a laugh and not too much else; "Purple People Eater," by contrast, is a punchy rendition of the Sheb Wooley tune, and it's followed by a raw (and '70s punk-speed) rendition of "Good Golly Miss Molly" that can stand in any collection, and "Don't You Just Know It" is just as good. They open the middle section of this collection, which is the strongest part, as it has all of the mainstream rock & roll. Among the treats is a surprisingly effective slow-tempo version of "Train Kept A-Rollin'" and a pounding, driving interpretation of Big Joe Turner's "Honey Hush" that has room for a honking sax and a delightfully weird guitar break. And Sutch's take on Johnny Otis' "Bye Bye Baby" is worth the price of admission, even if you don't know precisely who's playing that guitar break; odds are it's Jimmy Page. Sutch's own "You Don't Care" also demonstrates that the man himself could help his cause creatively. The end of the disc is devoted to some '80s-era tracks that play off of Sutch's (by then) longtime fame in a somewhat more sophisticated manner than Meek‘s old productions did. These are very self-conscious but effective in a suitably theatrical manner, with several ex-Savages participating: "London Rocker" is a superb Little Richard-style song, while "Murder in the Graveyard" and "Loony Rock" play beautifully off of other sides of Sutch's persona. It's all a lot of fun and well worth tracking down as a profile of this singular figure in British rock & roll. And for a change, it's an actual EMI production: this is one that Colin Miles' See for Miles Records didn't have to do for them in order for it to come out right.

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